Man tied to Lyft driver slaying charged in separate case

This undated photo shows Gary Levin, 74, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Levin has been missing since Monday, Jan. 30, 2023, when his car was seen in Miami. Late Thursday, police in North Carolina found his car along with a Florida suspect in an earlier homicide, but Levin remained missing. (Courtesy of Levin family via AP) (Uncredited)

MIAMI – A man who police say was driving the car of a dead South Florida Lyft driver was charged with murder and other counts Tuesday in a separate case.

A grand jury in Hardee County indicted Matthew Flores, 35, on charges of first-degree murder, grand theft auto, possession of a firearm by a felon and tampering with evidence, according to court records.

The indictment relates to the Jan. 24 fatal shooting of 43-year-old Jose Carlos Martinez in Wauchula. Police were actively searching for Flores in that case by Jan. 30, when Lyft driver Gary Levin, 74, went missing after dropping off a customer in Okeechobee, a small city north of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee and about 70 miles (110 kilometers) east of Wauchula.

Levin’s red 2022 Kia Stinger was spotted in Miami, Okeechobee and Gainesville in north Florida after his disappearance. The vehicle was stopped Feb. 2 in North Carolina, where a U.S. Marshals regional task force asked authorities to be on the lookout. Flores, who was driving the car, was arrested following a police chase through three counties, officials said. A dead body found in Okeechobee after Levin went missing was eventually identified as the driver.

Flores was being held in North Carolina on a $2 million bond with a hearing scheduled for Wednesday. He will eventually be returned to Florida. It was not known whether Flores had a lawyer who can speak on his behalf.